Awarded annually by Columbia University, the Pulitzer Prize is the USA’s premier award for writing. The prizes cover a wide range of genres of the written word from journalism to fiction (plus some musical achievement awards). They are highly coveted and very notable names have been winners in the past. Who were among the winners this year?
1. Fiction: Viet Thanh Nguyen for the Sympathizer
The winner of the fiction prize is a part espionage, part satirical thriller that tells the story of a Communist sympathizer in 1975 who escapes Saigon for Los Angeles and begins spying on a South Vietnamese group that he infiltrates. Author Nguyen’s debut novel was a smash critical hit, and his intention was to explore the Vietnam conflict in a more complex way than so many others do.
2. Drama: Lin-Manual Miranda for Hamilton
Broadway smash Hamilton is the absolute golden ticket in New York at the moment, with some seats not available for years because of the high demand! The amazing hip-hop retelling of the story of one of the nation’s founding fathers has literally taken the world by storm. Who would have thought such a bizarre idea would be such a phenomenal show?
3. History: T.J. Stiles for Custer’s Trials: a Life on the Frontier of a New America
In his historical biography of General Custer, T.J. Stiles goes beyond the simple narrative that finished at Little Bighorn and instead chooses to take the reader on a journey through the lesser known aspects of his life. The author draws on intimate sources from Custer’s wife and an emancipated black woman who worked for him, creating a much richer picture of the iconic figure.
4. Biography or Autobiography: William Finnegan for Barbarian Days: a Surfing Life
Though the sport of surfing might not seem like something interesting enough to spawn a Pulitzer Prize winner, William Finnegan has proven us wrong by creating a memoir of five decades on and off the salty waves that paints a picture of surfing as an essential element of life; something that the author could not be without.
5. Poetry: Peter Balakian for Ozone Journal
This book of poems is very deeply rooted in musings from the writer about the Armenian genocide, after he travelled to Syria in 2009 to excavate bones of the list victims. Balakian’s poetry is complex, with the title poem being a 55 section collage that explores his Syrian trip intertwined with his life in 1980’s New York City.
6. General Non-Fiction: Joby Warrick for Black Flags: the Rise of ISIS
Joby Warrick’s book takes a comprehensive look at how the flawed strategy of the United States helped to fueled the anger and violence that has since grown in the so called Islamic State movement. This is Warrick’s second Pulitzer, after sharing the prize in 1996 for journalism work.
7. Music: Henry Threadgill for in for a Penny, in for a Pound
This 72-year-old multi-instrumentalist has produced a record that has been described as expanding the horizons of the jazz genre. Featuring his quintet, Zooid, the musician has created a completely original work that critics have suggested weaves a unique tapestry of modern American life.
8. National Journalism Reporting: the Washington Post for Fatal Shooting by Police Officers Database
The national journalism prize was won by the staff of The Washington Post for their revelatory story and database that detailed 990 fatal shootings by police officers across the United States in 2015.
9. Local Journalism Reporting: the Tampa Bay Times for Florida School Failures
This local news story exposed the failings of a local school board in Florida that over the last eight years has turned five predominantly black elementary schools into the worst institutions in the entire state.
A fascinating and intriguing selection, indeed.